Residents of western Massachusetts have long marked the start of summer by the opening of the Green River Festival. Now in its 35th year, the three-day music festival held in Greenfield, Massachusetts draws a large crowd hungry for food, fun and dancing.

This year, thanks to students and professors in UMass Amherst’s Building and Construction Technology Program, as well as the collaborative efforts of the UMass Department of Architecture, the Five College Architectural Studies program, and East Branch Studio, festival-goers were able to rock out at the HyggeHaus, a modular, 350 square foot, high-performance, net zero, low carbon accessory dwelling unit that served both as an auxiliary stage and as a model of sustainable living addressing both equity and the national housing shortage. 

Hygge, pronounced “hyoo-guh,” is a Norwegian term that signifies “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” This DesignBuild project was started begun by a group of UMass students and instructors in 2020, but the build was postponed due to COVID-19. The project was resurrected and finished with a new group of students in time for the Green River Festival—and now it’s on its way to Holyoke, where, in conjunction with OneHolyoke CDC, it will play a permanent role as affordable housing. 

“DesignBuild programs, while not rare in higher education institutions are not the norm,” says Carl Fiocchi, lecturer and professional master’s program coordinator in UMass Amherst’s Building and Construction Technology Program. Graduates of construction and architecture programs frequently mention that they wished their training had included hands-on project construction. 

“It’s not an unreasonable wish,” Fiocchi continues. “Students in biology and chemistry have lab experiences and those in the natural sciences have field experiences.Why not building and architectural students, too?"

“We finally had an opportunity to add DesignBuild to the curriculum when Kent Hicks of East Branch Studio approached me with the idea of a collaboration. We were joined by Rob Williams from UMass’s Architecture Department and Naomi Darling from the Five College Program’s Architecture Studies and established the DesignBuild course,” says Fiocchi.

Eleven students from Building and Construction Technology, Architecture and the Five College Architecture Program helped with every stage of the project, from designing to framing, sheet-rocking, wiring and hanging doors. The cohort was an equal mix of undergrads and grads and included six women and five men. Construction at East Branch Studio began in early February and continued until the move to Green River in late June. The students worked on weekends, vacation days and holidays.

“Construction during winter months in New England is an ‘outdoor sport,’” says Fiocchi, “and this past winter was a tough one as students battled freezing rain, snow, wind and cold. What was most impressive was the consistent good humor and positive energy they all exhibited as the project moved through framing, envelope detailing, mechanical installs and on to interior finish work and finally the transport to Greenfield. I could not have been prouder of these students and feel incredibly fortunate to have shared the experienced with them.”  

The project, which was the subject of an extensive and glowing write-up in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, was also detailed in a series of photo-rich blog posts showing every step of the construction

“UMass has provided multiple opportunities and advantages to me, but the one I most value is this project,” says Fiocchi. “The organization and expense involved is substantial. The commitment of students is enormous. It is only with the combined efforts of East Branch Studio, the three academic programs, the tireless effort of Professors Williams, Darling and Hicks and the collaboration with OneHolyoke CDC that resulted in a project that serves a community need and satisfies our learning objectives.”

Read on and view the images. 


Press release posted in Sustainability for Faculty , Staff , Prospective students , Current students , Alumni , and Public